More commonly known as Valium, diazepam was initially marketed as an anti-anxiety drug as it relaxed the muscles without any reduction in mental acuity or alertness. It has since been used to treat a wide variety of other symptoms and conditions, including but not limited to insomnia, alcoholism, chronic pain, muscle spasms and spinal cord conditions like multiple sclerosis.
Diazepam is a Schedule IV drug, meaning that it requires a doctor’s prescription but can be refilled up to five times in a six-month period. It is a benzodiazepine and treats pain by working directly to increase the levels of Gamma Amino-Butyric Acid (GABA) in the brain.
Prescription amounts vary widely according to the condition being treated.
What Diseases and Conditions Can Diazepam Treat?
Since its invention over 50 years ago, diazepam has been used to treat many different conditions. Common treatments include:
Mental Disorders and Conditions
- Panic attacks
- Pathological agitation
Chronic Pain and Related Conditions
- Multiple sclerosis and other spastic muscular paresis
- Muscle spasms and seizures
- Restless leg syndrome
- Chronic back pain
Other Symptoms and Conditions
- Drug overdose – for hallucinogens or stimulants
- Opiate and depressant drug withdrawal
- Tinnitus/Hearing loss
- Meniere’s Disease
- Oxygen toxicity
Additionally, diazepam is used as a pre- or post-operative procedure to help sedate a patient, induce amnesia or reduce anxiety.
While diazepam doesn’t directly affect the muscles or bodily nervous system, as a benzodiazepine, it affects the pain receptors in the brain. For this reason, it is often used as an auxiliary treatment for many muscular or skeletal conditions that cause significant and chronic pain.
Common Side Effects of Diazepam
While diazepam is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the world, it still has several notable side effects. Be aware of the potential downsides of a medication before committing to a daily regimen.
Diazepam may lead to dizziness, clumsiness, fatigue, sleepiness and slight amnesia or memory problems. It may also lead to hangover symptoms like nausea and headache. Patients should avoid operating heavy machinery after taking diazepam.
Diazepam may also lead to “paradoxical” side effects such as increased irritability, anxiety, seizures, muscle cramps, insomnia or violent impulses toward oneself or others.
Diazepam occasionally causes dependency or tolerance issues, whereas any reduction in medication causes withdrawal symptoms. Additional dosage may be required by the patient to feel the same effects over time.
Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, seizures and psychosis. Do not reduce your diazepam dosage without the assistance of a qualified physician.
Overdose symptoms include low blood pressure, vomiting, extreme drowsiness, loss of consciousness or coma. Risk of overdose increases if taken in conjunction with other depressants such as alcohol, sleep medicine and muscle relaxant.
How to Decide if Diazepam is Right for You
Certain conditions will preclude the use of diazepam. It may not be taken with many other types of medication that increase the chances of an overdose. Consult with your doctor to see if you should include diazepam in your daily drug regimen.